It’s a Monday morning, and Ellie Ling and her golden retriever animal-assisted therapy dog, Phoebe-Rose, are preparing for their weekly visit to the Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton Hospice House.
“My grandma received care from Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton at home when she was nearing the end of her life. Even though I was still pretty young at the time, I could see that my mom always seemed very at peace with the care that my grandma was receiving,” Ellie said. “The dedication and care that Hospice gave was as if they were also part of the family.”
Two years later, Ellie’s mom took a horticulture class and completed an internship at Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton to care for the beautiful gardens on the grounds. Seeing her mom’s positive experience sparked Ellie’s interest in volunteering, and she started with landscaping and art therapy with the Art Cart. She continues to be involved with the Art Forever After Bereavement Group and animal-assisted therapy.
“When I was in grade school, we had visits from a therapy dog, Bronwyn, who was specifically a reading dog for children,” she said. “She was sweet, calm, and content with being read to. Ever since then, I have wanted to train a dog in the hopes of it becoming a therapy dog.”
In December 2019, Ellie adopted Phoebe-Rose, who was eight weeks old, and started the journey to achieving that goal. Through Miami Valley Pet Therapy Association (MVPTA), Ellie and Phoebe-Rose underwent a pre-screening to determine personality fit and a basic obedience skills test before beginning training.
“Once accepted, we had lectures, practice and homework, which included visiting pet-friendly stores to meet and be petted by strangers. Phoebe-Rose really loves people. So, she enjoyed her homework,” Ellie said. “In class, we practiced reinforcing good behavior, reacting to distractions, and socializing to different scenarios and medical equipment.”
Volunteering at Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton
Phoebe-Rose and Ellie have been certified since Nov. 3, 2021, and they started visiting patients at Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton on Nov. 15, 2021.
“Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton is so welcoming not only to its human volunteers, but also its animal-assisted therapy volunteers. Seeing patients, families, friends, and staff light up the second Phoebe-Rose walks in the room is something that never gets tiring for me as the handler,” she said. “We also enjoy that every week is different and brings new friends to meet. Some weeks we get to provide many patients with bedside therapy. Other weeks we see whole families with kids, and Phoebe-Rose performs some of her tricks for them.”
Phoebe-Rose is dedicated to everything she does, from learning new tricks for her YouTube channel, Hunter’s Moon Training, to providing animal-assisted therapy and everything in between including American Kennel Club (AKC) Rally, in which a dog and their handler move together through a course of 10-20 signs, displaying their skills, and AKC Fast CAT®, a coursing ability test that times how fast a dog can run. She also plans to start dock diving next summer.
“When it comes to therapy work, she seems to know exactly what to do,” Ellie said. “She loves to smile wherever she goes because, I believe, she knows how much of an impact she makes in other people’s lives, and especially my life.”
We’re grateful to Ellie and Phoebe-Rose for their support of our mission!
About Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton
Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton, an affiliate of Ohio’s Hospice, is a not-for-profit hospice provider. Since 1978, it has served patients and families in the Dayton region in their homes, extended care and assisted living facilities, and the Hospice House location in Dayton. A variety of grief support services are available to the entire community through the Pathways of HopeSM Grief Counseling Center. Support and education are provided by a team of counselors and social workers, all with significant experience and expertise in assisting grieving children, adolescents and adults. Pathways of Hope was established in 2002. Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton serves more than 1,000 patients and families daily, achieving national recognition for innovative services and outstanding care.